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Friday, March 9, 2018

Behind the Masque (Prologue)



Abernathy Estate, Detroit suburbs, Spring 2008
        
         Kyle Abernathy sat alone in the darkened drawing room, watching the flashers of police cruisers and ambulances outside the window. Dozens of people poured in and out of the mansion, tracking muddy feet all over pristine carpets. The noise was deafening; cops wandering around, feet stomping through the halls, raised voices, and the sounds of people vomiting outside the half-closed door. It was horrible and it wouldn’t be over with anytime soon; a violent crime had been committed, here in the Abernathy’s safe haven. The police had a job to do and it didn’t matter that he, perhaps more than most, paid their salaries; they would do it with or without his consent.
         The door opened and a tall, lanky red-head walked in. Her navy business suit was glued to an athletic shape and she walked with a purpose, the lights from the hall glinting off her badge.
         When the officer reached for the light switch in the room, Kyle frowned.
         “Leave them off,” he said, so soft and quiet that she might not hear.
         “Mr. Abernathy, I’m sorry, but I have to ask you some questions now.”
         He didn’t like this cop. She smelled of sweat and hard work and had eyes that were narrow and dark, as if hiding something. It was easy to tell when a person had secrets since he had a ton of them hidden away. Her voice was gruff, not very feminine. It was irritating. Women should act and sound like women, not construction workers.
         “Where’s Jackson?” he asked.
         “Detective Jackson has other cases to handle. I’ll be lead investigator for you…”
         “He’s too busy to help my family? Doesn’t matter, I suppose. You already have the person responsible in custody.” He looked back toward the window. “How bad is it?”
         “No one has told you?”
         “Of course not. I was out of town and received a call that I had to come back. They said it had something to do with my mother. It was a shock to return and find cops swarming my estate. All I know is that my mother is dead. How did she die?”
         “Your mother was tortured before he killed her.”
         He didn’t respond for several long minutes, then said, “I heard talk, Detective. My mother was barely recognizable and when I see trained police officers losing the contents of their stomach all over my carpeted floors, I can only assume it was very bad. What did he do to her?”
         “I don’t think you need all the gory details, Mr…”
         “Look, Officer…” He leaned over to get a look at her badge. “…Higgins, I want to know everything. I can handle it. Now tell me what he did to her – all the details, if you will.”
         She swallowed, tapped her pen on her notepad, and then said, “Her back was whipped, right down to the bone. Her fingernails were ripped out and as if that wasn’t enough, he…he…”
         Kyle watched Officer Higgins catch her breath at the memory.  “He what?”
         “He skinned her. I’m sorry, Mr. Abernathy, truly sorry.”
         “And the guy who did this?”
         “He worked for your gardening company. After finishing with the matriarch of the manor, he sat down and called 9-1-1. We found him sitting next to the body, covered in blood.”
         “Thank you, Detective, that will be all.”
         “Mr. Abernathy, I have some questions…”
         “Which I’m sure will be answered shortly. Right now, I want to be alone.”
         The police officer nodded and left the room, shutting the door. Kyle turned back to the window and smiled, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ring coated with blood. It bore the crest of the Abernathys and was passed down from one head of the household to the next. Mrs. Abernathy had worn it for years. Kyle had ripped it from her cold hand hours earlier as she lay dying in the basement. She hadn’t said a word; just tried to cough out a retort, but nothing could get past the bruised lips. It was atrocious, but partly sensual, the way her too skinny, ribs showing, wrinkly body swayed back and forth from the hooks embedded into her back. She reached for him, but fell short of the mark. He wanted her to die; the old bag held on for way too long. Eventually, it happened and the light left those sagging eyes. Now the legacy was his.
         He spun around in his chair, unlocked the desk drawer, and dropped the ring inside. Once the murderer was convicted and sentenced to a life in prison, he could safely wear it. When he returned his attention back to the window, they were carting his mother’s corpse away.
         “Goodbye, mother,” he said.
         After they loaded the body, he stood, straightened his tie, smoothed out his black pants, and then walked to the door, ready to go have a talk with the irritating detective.

Buy Behind the Masque at amazon.com

When Angels Sing (Prologue)

Blaze Kerrigan, he always hated that name. It was a stupid name, but one he carried well. Oh, it wasn’t a birth name, of course. No, the birth name had been Darren or Donald or something like that. He couldn’t remember anymore. It was a name for a weakling, though, and weaklings deserved nothing more than a life of pain. He was good at that, causing pain now. It hadn’t always been that way. At one point, he had been a good man, a trusting man, a loving man. Then she came into his life. The perfect angel, Melanie. She had been a beautiful girl, a flaxen-haired goddess. He used to imagine seeing a halo surrounding her head. God had kissed her when she was born and she had been very special to him.

Her voice had called to him many times. He had listened within the shadows as her songs took flight, filling him with a passionate longing to be with her. Sometimes her voice could turn him on more than he liked, but he had held his control, until a young man came along and sapped her energy. She hadn’t wanted to sing anymore. He had missed her singing, his sweet Melanie. So he went to her one night. They had argued. He hadn’t meant to do it, but before he could stop himself, he had stabbed her over and over. He hadn’t felt the horror he thought he might, instead he felt a wave of pleasure come over him. He had enjoyed drawing her blood. Just thinking about it now stirred something inside of him and he remembered how he had plunged the knife into her soft abdomen. With every plunge, he felt euphoric and knew he had found his calling. All he had to do now was get that damn name out of his mind: Blaze Kerrigan. It was all he could see, Blaze, Blaze, Blaze! The day he had killed Melanie was the day Darren or Donald had ceased to exist and Blaze had been born.

Time to end it, Blaze old boy.

But first things first. Ever since Melanie, the man had needed more. He couldn’t help himself. Those pretty young women all needed to be heard. He would listen and love them and when the time was right, he would kill them, but he wouldn’t do it alone. Just as he created Blaze Kerrigan, Blaze Kerrigan had created him. He was killing now for the both of them and neither would get any rest for a long time. It was time to start the game.

He turned his attention to the young woman before him screaming into the phone glued to her ear. He liked that. Her sweet, melodic voice sang to him.

He ducked into a doorway when she turned her head. Her face held the rugged look of a woman who loved the outdoors. A few wrinkles cut across her brow, a long scratch that split her left cheek in half, and a square jaw made her look slightly masculine, but her voice drew him in. It wasn’t as soft or as sweet as his dear Melanie, but he loved it just the same. It was time to move on, on to the next perfect little angel, this waitress that had waited on and flirted with his Blaze creation.

The girl worked out at a karate studio in downtown Manhattan. He had seen her there just moments ago, her long legs flying at imaginary assailants, her nimble hands moving fast against the heavy bags. Very fit and dangerous, that would be something new to him. It was too bad for her, he thought, that the karate school didn’t teach her one thing – how to avoid distraction.

He jumped on her trail right after class; she hadn’t even noticed. A moment after leaving the school, her cell phone attached itself to her ear, and her mind became preoccupied with yelling at whoever was stuck on the other end. Not very wise on her part, he thought. It would be easy to sneak up behind her and blitz her. He didn’t like easy, so he waited, and watched as she let herself into an apartment complex. Apartments meant other people around. Other people meant nosy neighbors. He didn’t like that complication.

A light turned on. Third floor. Her apartment is on the third floor. He glanced up at the sky; it would be dark soon. If he waited a bit longer, stealing into her apartment would be a breeze. He hoped she would be in the shower, or perhaps sleeping by then. The thought of subduing her made his limbs go weak. The game got better with every angel he hunted. He licked his lips and waited for the cover of darkness so he could fade into the shadows.

Those shadows were his friends, his only friends now. They never lied to him or tried to hurt him. He loved the cover they provided. Once inside them, he could become anyone or anything. No one ever beat the shadows. They were his dark side and they now beckoned to him.

He smiled, reaching inside his jacket to take out the small camouflaged knife he carried. He headed for the apartment building door.

Buy When Angels Sing at amazon.com